Remarks by the President at White House Conference on Travel
Monday, October 30, 1995
FAA Reform excerpt from the President's remarks:
"Finally, let me say that we are trying to do two more things to
make the government work better and cost less that directly affect the
travel and tourism industry. The Vice President is going to speak to
you tomorrow, and he will talk about the work we've done in
reinventing government with the Customs Service and the Immigration
and Naturalization Service which has changed the way we greet our own
citizens and visitors as they enter the United States. If you're
coming or going legally, we want to get the government out of the way
and get you on your way. And that will make a big difference if we do
"Now, finally, I want to mention this second point. We have worked
very hard to enact reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Having a Federal Aviation Administration that works, that has the
confidence of all Americans, that operates the airports efficiently
and safely -- that has a lot to do with how those of you in travel and
tourism do unless you get all your customers off the road. And it is a
very important thing for the United States, for our economy, for the
convenience and for the safety of our people.
"The FAA controls the bottom-line efficiency of the airline
industry. Yet, believe it or not, its air traffic control system in
many places still depends upon Stone Age technology that's often older
than the flight controllers using it. I know that's hard to believe.
At a time when our private sector is building the most advanced
airplanes in the world, the FAA is still buying vacuum tubes like this
-- the Vice President gave me this just before I came over -- to run
the computers and the radar systems that ought to be run by chips. We
actually have to buy these vacuum tubes for some of the old computers
and radar systems from other countries because they're not even
produced here anymore.
"Now, this is unacceptable. Americans have a right to believe that
the FAA will be run with the highest technology in the world, and they
will get where they're going on time at a reasonable cost and at
maximum safety. I never want a parent to think twice when a child asks
if the flying is safe.
"Now, we've been very blessed by very safe and careful airlines,
and our control and regulatory system has worked very well over time.
But we also know that there's no point in pretending something's all
right when it's not. It is not all right that the FAA does not have
the highest technology; safest, most efficient equipment in the world.
That is not all right. We have to change that.
"That's why more than two years ago I made FAA reform a top
priority and asked the Vice President to include it at the top of his
list in the National Performance Review. In early 1994, almost two
years ago, we sent Congress a plan to overhaul the agency. Building on
suggestions from the airline commission that helped us to turn the
airline industry around, we called for a procurement system that gets
the FAA new technology while it's still on the cutting edge; a new
personnel system that puts controllers where they're needed and
rewards them for good work; and a radically new financing system that
ensures stability, demands accountability, and provides incentives for
"We've done everything we could to fix the FAA on our own.
Secretary Peņa and Administrator Hinson brought in a new management
team and put in plans to modernize the system. We have speeded up the
replacement of failing computers at some of our busiest air traffic
centers, so there will be fewer of these and more of the chips. And we
have stepped up training for controllers and technicians.
"But, unfortunately, we cannot do everything we need to alone. We
have to have some legislative help. And I am very pleased that
Congress has put together finally a transportation appropriations bill
that embraces the personnel and the procurement reforms we asked for
two years ago. I am very gratified that members of both parties came
together to create this important legislation. And I'd like to give a
special word of thanks to Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon. When this
bill hits my desk, I intend to sign it. And we will get FAA back on a
glide path to the 21st century.
"But there's more to do. We still have to overhaul the financing of
FAA. Today's budget process simply does not guarantee the agency the
long-range funding it needs to operate safely and efficiently. Again,
let me thank Congressman Oberstar and Senators McCain, Ford and
Hollings for their work on this. I want Congress to redouble their
efforts. We have got to fix this problem once and for all."